Critics of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s quest to lure the Washington Redskins to Oxon Cove in Prince George’s County cheered his abrupt decision this week to abandon his efforts. They said the state failed to establish an economic justification for the project, and there were vigorous complaints about the team’s billionaire owner, Daniel M. Snyder.
They also voiced disgruntlement that Hogan (R) wasn’t more forthcoming about his negotiations with the federal government on a possible land swap.
While there was no public indication prior to Tuesday night that Hogan was preparing to pull the plug on his efforts, the governor’s decision was not a complete surprise.
His plan, first disclosed in December, involved winning control of Oxon Cove, a 500-acre site of environmentally sensitive parkland near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, from the federal government.
In exchange, the state would give the U.S. Department of the Interior 2,480 acres in Western Maryland that sit adjacent to some Civil War battlefields.
The Prince George’s parcel would then be offered to the Redskins at little or no cost. Snyder could then use the site to build a replacement for FedEx Field in Landover, a lackluster stadium that opened in 1996 that Snyder — and most of his dispirited fan base — would happily abandon.
The obvious, if unstated, lack of enthusiasm from top elected officials in Prince George’s County for this scheme left Hogan with two real options — take full control of negotiations with Snyder himself (meaning not just the land, but also the stadium and needed transportation improvements as well), or let the project die without a patron, the course he ultimately chose.
That’s where Snyder’s recent purchase of a $100 million “superyacht” may have hurt Hogan’s efforts.
“Right now, the Redskins are not in great favor,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) told Maryland Matters Wednesday. “This is an environmental preserve in Oxon Hill. From an economic development [perspective], it could make a lot of sense, but those numbers haven’t come forth. They have not come forth.”
“The governor needs to see what Dan Snyder is doing. He’s buying a $100 million yacht. Why can’t he put that in Oxon Hill and help save the taxpayers some money?”
As The Washington Post reported in late January, Snyder’s pleasure-craft is no ordinary vessel.
It has an IMAX theater, “a helipad, four VIP suites and athletic facilities to cater to a huge variety of sports including golf, basketball, volleyball and soccer.”
Del. David Moon (D-Montgomery), a critic of subsidized pro sports venues, said there is little chance that a new pro football stadium would generate enough revenue to offset taxpayer-funded infrastructure costs, even if Snyder built the facility himself.
“This is going to be a boondoggle any way you cut it,” he said Wednesday. “These things are terrible returns on investment.”
“There’s definitely this anti-billionaire streak in politics right now,” Moon added. “At the same time these stadium deals were being discussed, there was a lot of news about Dan Snyder’s $100 million yacht with the world’s first floating IMAX Theater. … It’s hard to justify throwing money at these team owners.”
Del. Jay Walker (D-Prince George’s), a former NFL quarterback who represents the Oxon Hill area, said he would not be losing any sleep over the demise of Hogan’s stadium efforts.
He faulted the governor for not consulting more with local residents and officials, and he expressed doubt about the use of any tax dollars to support a new stadium.
“Football stadiums are designed to get 100,000 people in and out as quickly as possible,” he said. “I don’t believe that football stadiums are economic engines, and I don’t think they promote development in the surrounding area. That’s why I’m not staying up at night.”
While Hogan is abandoning efforts to lure the Redskins to Oxon Cove, he still wants the state to control the parcel – though he hasn’t outlined what it might be used for.
His office released a statement saying: “We are not continuing discussions with the Redskins regarding this site at this time, however we are moving full steam ahead with acquiring state control of the Maryland Gateway in Prince George’s County from the federal government.”
“We believe this site holds significant potential benefits for the region and the state, as does the proposal to expand protected federal parkland in Western Maryland. We are working closely with our federal partners to finalize the transfer.”
A land transfer would require congressional approval. Hogan is scheduled to meet with Maryland’s congressional delegation on Capitol Hill early next month.